Do we need to work the steps in numerical order?

Q: It seems to me that the steps to should be worked in numerical order, but I know of others who jump around.  Which is the correct way to work the steps?

A: Regardless of the fellowship you’re in, the “correct” way to work the steps is with your sponsor.  You should find a person who is relatable and is someone you can work with.  This doesn’t mean it should be your best friend.  You need a sponsor who will push you and call you out on your bullshit from time to time.

Every sponsor has a different style.  Typically, sponsors tend to work the steps with their sponsees in the same way their sponsor taught them, combined with various things they’ve learned along the way, either from fellow addicts or trial and error.

Some sponsors are radically different from others.  It’s OK to “fire” your sponsor if you don’t like him or her.  It’s OK to find someone else.  This is especially true when sponsors are controlling and tell you that there way is the only way that works.  The unfortunate reality is that some sponsors would make good cult leaders.  Your Higher Power is God, not your sponsor.  Don’t replace God with your sponsor.

Specifically to your question, I feel the steps are in the order they are for a reason.  Start with Step One, end with Step Twelve.  This does not mean, however, that the steps should be worked strictly from 1 – 12.  In many cases, it would be wrong to say, “I can’t make amends to you because I’m only on step one.”  This is especially true for a “Step Ten” mistake — where you have a quick turnaround on making amends to a recent wrong.  Step Nine is more for the amends while you were acting out (eg. cheating on wife, neglecting kids to go to strip clubs), whereas Step Ten is focused on continual amends (eg, “I’m sorry I yelled at you this morning.”)

Likewise, at the time of writing this I am still working on Steps Six and Seven, but I’ve had to go back and work Steps One – Five, at least in an informal way, when I start to rely too much on myself rather than God.  The steps are linear, but they’re also cyclical.  You work them, but then you keep working them.

TL;DR: In short, work the steps in order with your sponsor, but don’t be so rigid that you end up hurting yourself or others.

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St. Paul’s List of Character Defects to the Galatians

If you need a starting place with recognizing your character defects (vices), or if you are having a hard time with your list, take a look at Galatians 5:16-25.  This was the epistle reading from the extra-ordinary form of the Mass (Traditional Latin Mass), today, the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

[16] I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. [17] For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would. [18] But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, [20] Idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects,

[21] Envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, [23] Mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law. [24] And they that are Christ’s, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences. [25] If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Some of the things here may sound foreign to you, but I bet most hit close to home: fornication? Check. Uncleanness (impurity)? Check. Luxury (also translated as “lustfulness” or “debauchery” or “sensuality”)? Check. Quarrels? Check Dissensions? Check. Envies? Check. Drunkeness? Check.  I can put a check aside most of those things.

These are things I can add to my list of defects, and help me with Step 8 and 9.  Whom did I envy?  Who did I hurt through my wrath and quarrels?

In contrast with these vices, St. Paul gives us the fruits of the spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity (kindness), goodness, longanimity (long-suffering, forbearance, generosity), mildness (gentleness), faith, modesty, continency (self-control), chastity.

In asking God to remove our character defects, we out to ask for the fruits of the Holy Spirit as well.  When we fill our hearts with these virtues, there will be less and less room for the vices.

 

“The assembly believed them” Susanna Part 4

The assembly believed them, because they were elders of the people and judges; and they condemned her to death. – Daniel 13:41

Earlier in the story of Susanna, the elders conspired together to gang rape her.  They sneaked into her garden and threatened her.  If she didn’t submit to them, they would say that she was fooling around with a young man.  “Who will the people believe?” they might have asked.  “The respected elders and judges of the community, or a worthless woman?”

Indeed, when they tell the story of what didn’t happen, the people believe them, even though such things were unheard of with Susanna.  These men were in positions of authority.  They were civil as well as religious leaders.

One injustice begats another.  How often in your acting out have you also lied and caused calamity to come upon the innocent?  Has your acting out damaged relationships with your spouse?  Your parents, brothers, sisters, or extended family?  What about your children?  Very likely, some of your relationships have been harmed.

Many sex addicts are tempted to immediately go into Step Nine, making amends.  That is natural.  When we realize that we’ve done wrong, if we are truly sorry, then we should want to make amends.  That’s an important part of penance in the sacrament of confession, too.

However, we must not rush into our amends.  This can make problems worse.  Remember, we may be ready for amends, but the people we hurt may not be ready.  A sponsor can help you know when to make amends, if ever.  Sometimes amends must be spiritual only.

Small amends can be made at any time.  If you are on decent terms with another person, start doing small things for them.  They don’t need to know why.  Just be kind, courteous, and helpful.  If you are not on good terms with someone, make time to pray for that person.  Have a Mass offered for them.  I have had Masses offered for people that I will never be able to make amends for, because they are dead, or doing so will cause more problems than it’ll solve.

Find a sponsor, work with your sponsor, and go to confession!